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Maidy Morhous - More Than Meets Thy Eye

Maidy Morhous describes herself as an artist who is dedicated not only to making art with an aesthetic appeal, but also to ensuring that others may derive significant meaning from it. Her contemporary bronze sculptures, most of which depict elements of the human body, are rendered to expose a specific social critique, and are not so much representative as they are symbolic.

“If I create a sculpture of a man without arms, it’s not just a man without arms. I attempt to create a piece that has something to say about that man, and his relation to and place within society,” Morhous says. Her “Mirror Mirror” series—pieces of which can be found at Forest & Ocean Gallery—was created as a means for Morhous to express her commentary on the constraints that society sets for physical beauty and perfection. Morhous describes thatthe pieces, which are meant to hang effortlessly from the wall like articles of clothing, are symbolic of the metaphorical mask or shell worn by men and women in our society, and “how the exterior façade can be worn and then removed, never allowing us to show our true selves,” she says.

Born in Upstate New York, Morhousdrew early inspiration from her mother, a painter and watercolorist. When she was still young, Morhous’s family relocated to Southern California, where the artist was raised. She attended art classes at major art schools in Los Angeles and later studied at the Atelier 17 in Paris, which culminated her MFA; Morhous earned a dual degree in Printmaking and Sculpture. Though her primary interest from early on was working three-dimensionally, she began her career in printmaking, to which she dedicated nearly ten successful years.

In the mid-80s, she moved to San Diego, sold her printing presses and returned to sculpting. Over the years, her style has evolved, moving from tighter, more illustrated pieces, to those that are loose and abstract. She continues to experiment today with process, technique and patina, often starting with one idea that differs significantly from the end result, her inspiration and vision constantly evolving, too.

Morhous has traveled extensively, and she regularly draws from those experiences when it comes to the inspiration behind many of her pieces, especially her “Under Wraps” collection. Having ventured to the Middle East, Thailand, Egypt, China, Vietnam and South America—among countless other places—Morhous explains that she often witnesses the restrictions that women in particular experience in societies and communities throughout the world. This series was meant to express the ways in which women are undermined or oppressed by society. Many of her other muses and influences are social, political and cultural issues, by which she is constantly inspired to create art as form of statement and communication with the viewer. “The resistance to the oppression of socially inscribed narratives and socially dominating practice is presented sublimely to the viewer and open to interpretation,” says Morhous.

Perhaps one of the artists’ most notable journeys was that of her March 2011 trip to Japan, which she embarked on to, “visit a country infused by elements of nature, honor, grace and ritual.” Mid-way through her trip, the infamous T?hoku Earthquake struck, followed the subsequent tsunami. The experience was harrowing and life changing for the artist, who says she experienced true helplessness during one of the most devastating natural disasters in Japan’s history. Upon her safe return to the U.S., Morhous decided that there was more she could do than just donate monetarily to disaster relief funds.

She utilized her skills as a sculptor to create a series of three bronze sculptures that she would later transport and dedicate to the people of Japan. “I created the sculptures so that future generations and visitors alike would not forget the devastation that this community endured,” she explains. The first piece, titled “Mamoru,” which is Japanese for ‘to protect’, depicts a woman clutching her child as she frantically runs from the tsunami’s waters. The second bronze in the series is titled “Sendai,” which represents a grouping of people in the T?hoku province whose lives were uprooted by the catastrophic event. The third piece, “Fukkou,” which means ‘resurgence,’ represents the perseverance and onward movement of the Japanese people.

Today, Morhous works from her studio in Del Mar where she continues to push herself as an artist to evolve, experiment, and change. She is working to increase her exposure by attending international art fairs, and she recently took on the role of president of the Del Mar Art Center. As for her ambition as an artist and her plans for the future? “I just want my work to stand for something more than just representational. I want it to say something. It has to go beyond just being the physical…it has to speak to someone and draw something out of them,” she says.

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